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Who Made Health Issues Part of the Black Experience?

Is it just me or does the average Black person seem to have the medical knowledge of a nurse or even a doctor? For example, I always hear Black people saying things like: “yeah I had to go visit my aunt in the hospital because she had heart problems” or “my cousin has to check his blood sugar because he has diabetes” and “I had to get my dad his pills because he has high blood pressure.” I hear these kinds of things ALL THE TIME.  Pills, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart problems seem to always be part of the conversation.  It’s as if that has become the norm for us.  Some of my friends decided to become nurses partially because they already knew half the course work from dealing with situations in their own family.

And it’s not just about our parents or older people. Heath issues have become so normal they affect everyone in some way.  Situations such as friends or family members being in the hospital, having a variety of  medications in the house, having to miss out on activities because you have to take care of someone and …. going to another funeral.

What’s interesting is when I hang out with some of my friends from other economic backgrounds (you meet all kinds of people in college) they don’t tend to talk about health issues as much. Some of my friends talk about how their parents travel and do different things that I had forgotten you can do after a certain age.

You Know How It Is”

Sometimes when Black folks talk about our health, we add, “you know how it is.”   I hear older black men say “yeah I have to watch this high blood pressure - you know how it is” or “she’s in the hospital again – you know how that goes.”

And what’s sad is I DO know how that goes!  But why do we automatically “know how that goes?”  Why does it seem like we don’t know life outside of these circumstances?   

What if somebody came up and said, “In my family nobody has any health issues. No high blood pressure, no diabetes, and no one is overweight; you know how it is.” I couldn’t agree.  I would say “Nothing? That’s cool. But personally, NO I definitely do NOT know how THAT goes.” Now, what if somebody said “yeah my whole family stopped eating fast food and drinking soda– you know how that goes” I probably would not react like “Yeah – of course.” I would be more like - “Really dog? No fast food? Wow. That’s Big. That’s cool though.”  How would you respond?

My point is that some things just seem to sound strange if you’re Black and when it comes to talking about being in good health, not being bogged down with health issues we should ALL know “how that goes.” What do you think?


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